In Chinese culture, the period of confinement, also known as Zuo Yue Zi, is traditionally one month long. However, it can last up to 45 days for further healing, especially if the mother has had a C-section. This period of confinement gives new mothers the opportunity to replenish their energy and allow healing.
Although some new mothers may find the restrictions and loneliness boring, it is a great time to bond with their newborn. The period also ensures that their energy does not run out if they engage in exhausting activities. For example, Baby Momo and her mother, Wu Lili, stayed in three rooms of an apartment in Beijing for 29 days - the last day of their traditional 30-day period of confinement.
In traditional Chinese culture, women who have just given birth are supposed to stay at home with their baby for 40 days. Other cultures in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa have similar practices, which are called by different names. During confinement, women should not go outside and are helped by family members in the house. Special dishes are cooked with hot herbs such as ginger because it is believed that consuming anything cold is not beneficial.
The month of childbirth is a period of 26 to 30 days of prolonged rest for new mothers. They are cared for by other women (family members or hired nannies trained in this practice), cook specific meals with Chinese herbs, and are confined to their homes to rest while their bodies heal. The month of confinement diet is the cornerstone of this practice, as it is believed that eating nutritious foods is what will help the mother's body heal and rebalance.
This special diet is made up of confinement foods aimed at specific functions such as dispelling the “wind” from the body, calming the heat, increasing blood circulation, increasing the mother's milk supply, revitalizing strength, etc. As Confinement Centres (CCs) become increasingly available while traditional confinement becomes less available due to changing social structure and living arrangements, the confinement food menu has been adapted to help speed up the mother's recovery from her “weakened body”.
The custom of confinement advises new mothers to choose foods rich in energy and protein to restore energy levels, help reduce the size of the uterus and make the perineum heal. It is also important to include dietary fibre in their diet as new mothers may become constipated during confinement due to less activity and a myth that vegetables should not be eaten during confinement.
To sum up, Chinese Confinement (Zuo Yue Zi) traditionally lasts a month but can last up to 45 days for further healing. It gives new mothers an opportunity to replenish their energy and allow healing while bonding with their newborns. During this period they should stay at home and consume special dishes cooked with hot herbs such as ginger as well as foods rich in energy and protein.